Know horses, no money. Know money, no horses.
I read that statement somewhere once and I couldn't agree more. Whether we like it or not, our passion is expensive. And let's be honest, the purchase of a horse is usually the cheapest expense compared to everything else. I mean there's the board, the vet, the farrier, the membership fees, the tack, the transport fees... the list can go on and on.
Regardless of all of that. We're willing to put the majority of our income into these beautiful four legged friends of ours. So, when you think you're finally ready to step out of the world of school horses and into the world of horse ownership, the first decision you'll have to make is: do you want to lease or do you want to buy?
Both leasing and buying have their pros and their cons. You have to decide which one is best for you.
The great thing with leasing is that you can dip your foot into the ownership waters without having to fully commit. You'll "own" the horse for a certain time. It could be a year or a show season. Once that time is up, you can hand that horse back. That way, if horse ownership isn't your thing, or the horse wasn't right for you, you don't have the commitment to that horse.
You'll get more riding time. If you're used to riding once a week, it can be difficult to see any progress in your riding ability. If you're leasing a horse, then you have the opportunity to ride more times throughout the week, work on what you've learnt and work on something new during your next lesson.
Most of the time, you can negotiate with the horse's owner to pay for certain expenses. For example if the horse is on certain expensive supplements or treatments, you can negotiate whether they will cover those expenses in full or in part. Same goes for other expenses. If the owner is willing to help you out, then at least you can budget a little easier.
There are two big downfalls (in my opinion) when it comes to leasing. The first, is the lease fee. More often than not, there's a price tag on a lease and often it's not that much different to the price tag to buy. So whether you agree to pay the lease fee all at once at the beginning or in monthly payments, by the end of that term, that money is gone. And that's not adding the money you spent on board, entry fees, transportation, the vet and the farrier every month.
The second downfall is handing the horse back if he was a good fit for you. After all that time building a relationship and a partnership with that horse, it can be hard to say goodbye. Sometimes you can't re-lease the horse or the owners will ask for money because they know you like him. Maybe you worked out the issues that he had like his spookiness or his pawing on the cross-ties. The point is, you've spent a lot of time, energy and money on a horse you love just to hand him back over to his owner.
The most obvious pro has got to be that the horse is all yours. You don't have to hand him back at the end of the year or listen to how anyone else thinks you should take care of him. He's all yours and you can do whatever you'd like.
This also means that you can spend however much as you'd like on your horse. Do you want a new halter? Do you want coordinating polos and saddle pads? Do you want to monogram your tack? Go ahead. The horse is yours after all. Sure you could do this sort of thing with a horse you're leasing or even a school horse, but there's something different about it when the horse is yours.
You only pay for him once. Unlike leasing where every year you'd have to pay for another leasing fee, you only pay your horse's price tag once. So that means you can maybe save up a little more than you were willing to spend on a lease. You can also be a bit more specific on what horse you end up buying. Depending on what you're looking for, you could buy a younger project-type horse and sell it later down the road. That way, if the horse for whatever reason doesn't fit with you, you can sell it and at least some (maybe even more) of your money will come back to you. Your money hasn't just disappeared.
The great thing about leasing is that you don't really have anyone to answer to (other than barn rules of course). So if you want to try out a new training technique or you want to take a break from showing, you can.
The horse is yours. That means if he gets caught in the fence and needs stitches, you pay. If he has a colic and needs surgery, you pay. If you lose your job, you still need to pay for him. Sure you can get into those sorts of problems when you lease, but sometimes you can walk away early. If not, then when your contract is up at least you could walk away from the horse world for a bit and regain what you've lost. Sure, you can do that when you own, but you have to keep paying for him until he's sold. You are responsible for this animal. If anything were to happen, you need to be prepared.
I'm sure there are many more pros and cons for both leasing and buying. The point is, you need to decide what option works best for you. It's a personal decision. I'm personally at the point right now where I need to make that decision. In order to improve and focus on my riding, I need to be riding more than once a week. I need a horse of my own. I constantly go back and forth between leasing and buying. It's not an easy decision. What I'm learning is to be honest with myself. What can I afford? If I pay this lease fee this year, and after paying for all those other monthly fees, will I have enough to do it again next year? If I lost my job, what can I do? Can I afford insurance?
I hope that I've helped some of you who might be in the same boat as me right now. I also hope that you make the right decision for yourself. Horses cost money. That's a fact. But horses shouldn't put you into debt. Be smart in whatever decision you make.
Until next time, happy riding!